Chelsea FC Foundation coaches held the first training session for a new football club which is aiming to improve integration between Nepalese and British youths in Aldershot, Hampshire on Sunday.
United Rushmoor FC was the brainchild of Sam Phillips and local youth worker Rich Cooper to bring together the two communities following a large influx of Nepalese into the area over the last three years.
Since Joanna Lumley won her campaign to give Ghurkhas the right to live in Britain in 2009, thousands of Nepalese people have moved into the Aldershot district and it is now thought that 10 per cent of the population is Nepalese. This big influx over a short period has brought racial tension to the area, particularly among some of the young people.
Cooper realised how big the problem was becoming and so came up with the idea of creating the United Rushmoor Football Club. The club brings together Nepalese and British youngsters who live in Aldershot and Farnborough, and uses the power of football to overcome tensions between the two communities.
'It's been life-changing,' said Cooper. 'The fact that these two groups are on the pitch at the same time is a success considering where they were with each other a few months ago. It's been a radical change.
'And it was brilliant to have the Chelsea FC Foundation coaches down. They brought something new to the game and made the players feel really special as well.'
Chelsea FC Foundation coaches offered to get involved after seeing the story covered in the local media. This weekend saw the first training session take place under their guidance.
'It's a brilliant idea and it's really working,' said Chelsea FC Foundation community coach Shane Hughes.
'The kids really enjoyed taking part and it's something we really want to part of because it's such a fantastic programme. These guys have put their differences aside and are now looking to play as a side in a local league, so it's been really successful,' added Hughes.
The initiative won't stop with football either. Cooper's aim is to create a range of sides made up of Nepalese and white youths in a variety of sports and the results can already be seen, as racial tensions in the area have fallen dramatically.
'We are looking to create a cricket team, which is already underway, and also get these guys playing tennis together, basketball and also go fishing together,' added Cooper. 'This won't stop with the football team, that's for sure!'
Click here for more information on United Rushmoor FC.